Life in the US: Healthcare, Banks & Cellular Services

Life in the U.S. and Basic Services

Cellular Phones

In the U.S., there are two types of phones—contract phones and prepaid or no-contract phones. Most international students begin by using a prepaid or no-contract phone. If you are bringing an unlocked phone from home, you may be able to purchase a SIM card in the U.S.

During New International Student Orientation, you’ll have a chance to set up a cell phone—whether you add a SIM card to a phone you’re bringing, or purchase a new phone in the U.S.

Contract phones require customers to sign up for a two-year contract with a cell phone provider. Contract phones are generally free or subsidized. Most cell phone companies require a Social Security Number in order to sign up for a contract, although some may accept a cash deposit of several hundred dollars. Once international students have a Social Security Number, it is possible to sign up for a contract phone plan. Until then, using a SIM card or getting a prepaid phone is your best bet.

Banking in the U.S.

During New International Student Orientation, the Director of International Student and Academic Services will set up times to take students to a bank, such as Chase or Bank of America, to acquire a bank account.

Types of bank accounts

In the U.S., banks offer customers two types of bank accounts—checking or savings. A checking account allows you to store your money safely in a bank while having easy access to your money. You can take money out of your checking account at any time by using your debit card. A savings account allows you to store money that you don’t intend to use for a long time and earn interest off your money. Many banks require you to keep money in a savings account for six months or a year to earn the full interest. As a student, you will want to open a checking account so that you can access and receive your money easily.

 Accessing your money

With a checking account, you can access your money without issues. You’ll receive a debit card after you open a checking account. You can use the debit card at an ATM to withdraw cash. You can also use a debit card to pay stores, restaurants, and other service providers, and your payment will be deducted from your checking account.

 Receiving money

Once you open a bank account in the U.S., you’ll be able to start receiving money. Most major banks in the U.S. allow customers to receive international wire transfers. If your family plans to wire money to you, check your bank’s website for instructions or talk with the banker who helps you open your account. In addition, you can use service such as Zelle to receive money internationally.

 Bringing money safely to the U.S.

Most Americans don’t carry a lot of cash—instead, Americans tend to use debit cards or credit cards when they are out shopping or eating. If possible, we recommend bringing a small amount of cash or using a credit card for any immediate expenses you have. You’ll be able to open a bank account during the orientation program for new international students, but please keep in mind that it could take several business days for a wire transfer to reach you, if your family plans to send one.

 How much money should I be able to access?

It’s very important to consider how much money you should be able access within the first few weeks of school. You may need some money to purchase food or other items during your travel, depending on how you come to campus. Additionally, how much money you need right away will depend on what you anticipate purchasing. You’ll likely need to purchase a cell phone and some things for your dorm room.

For more information about banking for international students, check out The Times Higher Education article on “A guide to student bank accounts in the US.”

Healthcare and Insurance

Making sure you stay healthy is essential to your success while you’re a student. Healthcare in the U.S. can be quite different from healthcare in your home country, so be sure you understand what you will need to do, in order to have your healthcare covered in the United States. All students at Trinity are required to carry health insurance, including international students.

These are your options for healthcare coverage:

  1. Find a provider of your choice that has sufficient coverage for studying in the United States. International Student Insurance (ISO) is a provider that many international students use. It is possible to find reasonably priced options. If you choose ISO, you must email the summary of benefits to for approval, to make sure that you have the coverage you need. Click here to learn more about ISO.
  2. Use your own family’s plan. This will work if your family has a plan that can be used in the United States and has a printed summary of benefits in English. Email the summary of benefits to for approval.
  3. Purchase a plan that has been arranged by Trinity.
    • First Agency:
      The premium will be charged to your account at Trinity, making this a convenient option. The cost is $1,313.00 for the academic year 2020-2021 ($1,775.00 for student/athletes) .If you choose First Agency, email with your Name, Date of Birth and Country of Origin (please note if you need student/athlete coverage) and you will be signed up for coverage.